The video call came. Their big exam was complete and a much welcome break from school was about to begin. Sensing their excitement made my heart leap. Each of the five described how they would spend their vacation time. One would be leaving in a few moments to visit his aunt in another village for a week; The next planned to create some art, hoping to sell some over break; Another was looking forward to relaxing with friends; our next and his buddy didn’t have concrete plans but were really glad to have a break. Five young adult men, ages 17 – 20, sharing very adult-like intentions for vacation from…..4th grade.
I was slammed once again against the emotional brick wall. God, they were so old already when we met them, when Patchouko helped their families. Accolade worked with their families, got them into school and onto a life path to change their trajectory. Progress has been made, to be sure. Hearts and souls have changed and skills have been learned. It’s this education piece that becomes so incredibly frustrating in Haiti. Reminding myself to trust God’s plan, to resist the natural tendency to over plan and over think, I put that emotion back into a box I keep only for times I can open it constructively.
Several days later, another video call came, this time from the first one, alone. Expecting him to be out of town for several more days, I was surprised to see him standing in our home. The tenderness in his eyes tells me this is not going to be our typical conversation. “Tricia,” he says, “they don’t have food”. “Even today I haven’t eaten since the day before, I went to bed without food last night.” How am I to respond to this broken heart? Which emotion do I speak into first?
He goes on to describe his experience, reminding me that Haiti is always difficult but right now things are even more difficult. His extended family lives where Hurricane Matthew left a long-lasting ill effect. The current political environment makes every facet of life a challenge. He tells me he knows that he is blessed and it is difficult for him to have food when others do not. Oh, son, I know that feeling so very well, I think to myself, so deeply visceral inside of my being . Each and every day I awaken in the knowledge that someone that I love is hungry, someone that I love has hungry children, someone that I love is doing things they never thought possible to simply survive one more day. Every night I go to sleep with the same thoughts. How did our one respond?
“Tricia, I know I went with money to travel there and back and to get through one week. I used the money to feed them. Tricia, they were so hungry,” he says. “You are back early, son, tell me about that”, I responded. He goes on to describe a family member too ill to fight the fight, one who has now died. This Haitian son of ours has returned to gather clothes appropriate to attend the funeral and return for a few more days.
The purpose of his call? “Tricia, can we help to feed them?” Description alone cannot convey to you the heaviness in the air of that conversation. My heart skipped a beat. I sank into a chair from where I had been standing. Oh, this question, this never ending question of “can we help?”. Who can we help, how much can we help, what should we do, how do we help others to help themselves? These are all issues that Patchouko, Consuelo, and the board of CLIMB wrestle with on a regular basis. These are not issues for a young, giving and caring soul to wrestle with right now.
Returning my thoughts to why we do what we do, to empowerment and not enablement, I talk through some details with him. I wish we could help everyone, for sure I wish that. We cannot. He is well aware that we have 20 families within ASL that are hungry every day, but this is HIS family. This is pain that he feels on a different level. This experience is maturing him, creating in him a drive to do something about it.
This kiddo is not a selfish teenager. His heart is one of service beyond himself to the point of being hungry to feed others, gathering whatever is left in our kitchen onto plates to feed neighbor kids and asking permission afterward.
So, what is the answer? How do we best help him help his family? There IS an answer.
As an organization, we need help. love, encouragement and support from you. Together we move this one and the others into employment. Wait! I realize that may sound lofty to move from 4th grade to employment – hang with me. This is Haiti, not America. Things are more complicated and much simpler all at once. Come with me sometime and you will experience this firsthand.
Several years ago Patchouko and the CLIMB board felt a strong need for technical skills training alongside ongoing traditional education. Let’s face it, our guys are getting older and need to be providing for themselves. Most of them enjoy school, but the older tier of Accolade guys are beginning to verbalize the need and desire to provide for themselves. Some are having experiences similar to what I have described, they are realizing they have more than they deserve and more than most around them. Ooh, a lesson most of us could use as well!
So, how do we do it? We don’t simply provide food to his hungry extended family; he said himself “I got them some food but they will soon be hungry again”. NO!! We give him a means to earn a living so that his giving, God-driven heart and soul is able to provide for himself and help his family. That’s the Haitian way.
When we empower one person to employment, it is estimated that at least 10 family members are positively affected. We have 10 ASL program participants over the age of 16. Can you imagine with me what happens when they take what they have learned about God, faith, respectable living and service to others into the work field??!!
Hold onto your seats because the tide has begun. Two of the ASL program participants are currently working alongside an Automotive Mechanic, apprenticing so to speak. Others are waiting eagerly to be paired with a variety of “bosses” in the fields of masonry, electrician, moto mechanic, welding, possibly food service and more.
It doesn’t ease the pain. The knot in my gut and hole in my heart do not heal by simply knowing the process has begun. The searching eyes of this one via video pierce to my core as he awaits my answer to, “Can we help them?” I am a feeler and the strong emotion he feels seats deeply within me as well.
Won’t you help us change the response from, “Yes, one day, boys” to “Yes, we can help”? Will you please join us in developing a plan backed up with the means to provide skills training that enables employment? It is then that the Accolade boys will be able to help themselves and their families – through us, by the grace of God.”
The plan is in place, the motion has begun. The boys remain in traditional school in the afternoon. Mornings that would typically be their ASL Club time will soon be spent working 1:1 with people already qualified in their field of interest. The “boss” works with the boys they were once accustom to avoiding on the streets – the same boys that were known for stealing, fighting, gambling, etc. Those same boys now are able to speak into the lives of adult men, to show Jesus in the flesh, exhibit what redemption looks like. When our technical skills experts say yes they truly have no idea that they may, indeed, end up being the recipient of benefit as well. Don’t you just love how God works all things together?!
The critical element needed to push this (and other programming) forward is you becoming a sustaining member of CLIMB. Becoming a sustaining member simply means that you select an amount of money that you feel led to give monthly. Some feel it best to provide a year’s donations in one lump sum, and if that is you that is great, too. Most find it more appealing to be part of the team by giving a monthly amount suitable to their giving comfort.
It’s easy to do!
Log onto www.climbforhaiti.org, follow the tabs to “Get Involved”, then “Donate”. In the right hand upper corner you will find an ACH form to download, complete and mail to our financial volunteer, directions are on the form.
Utilize your own bank to issue a check (Bill Pay) monthly, made payable to CLIMB. Have them mail it to:
First Citizens Bank
Attn: Joel Thompson
300 N Main St
Charles City, IA 50616
Feel free to contact us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.
Issue a personal check to the address listed in Option 2, made payable to CLIMB
Credit / Debit card donations can be made via www.climbforhaiti.org under the “Get Involved” then “Donate” tabs.
Remember – you cannot out-give God. Not only does He multiply dollars donated but He sends blessing beyond blessing back to those who give of what they have. Eternal math – it’s a multiplication thing!